Netanyahu ally resigns, deepening Israeli political turmoil

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JERUSALEM Israel’s parliament speaker abruptly resigned Wednesday, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and deepening the country’s political turmoil as the embattled Israeli leader tries to cling to power amid a fast-spreading outbreak of the coronavirus and a looming corruption trial. The resignation of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein clears the way for the opposition to move forward with efforts in parliament to topple Netanyahu. But by resigning, Edelstein, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, also defied a Supreme Court order to hold a vote for his successor, throwing down a new obstacle that could delay the opposition from proceeding with its agenda for several days. The move drew an angry reaction from the opposition Blue and White Party, which now has the backing from a slim parliamentary majority. “The Israeli parliament belongs to Israel’s citizens, and their elected representatives will follow the laws of the state of Israel and the rulings of its courts. No one is above the law,” Blue and White leader Benny Gantz tweeted.Edelstein suspended parliamentary activities last week, citing procedural issues and restrictions on large gatherings due to the spread of the coronavirus. But opponents accused him of blocking the vote on his replacement to shield Netanyahu from legislation that would limit his lengthy rule. Netanyahu was recently indicted on various corruption charges and faces a criminal trial. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ordered him to hold a new vote by Wednesday, with the chief justice accusing him of “undermining the foundations of the democratic process.” While some members of Netanyahu’s Likud party urged him to defy the order, he responded that he would “not agree to an ultimatum” and resigned instead.“The Supreme Court decision destroys the work of the Knesset. The Supreme Court decision marks a harsh and arrogant intervention of the judicial branch in the affairs of the elected legislative branch,” Edelstein, the parliament speaker for the past seven years, charged in his last appearance as speaker.— AP